Lately everybody is on the Extreme Couponing craze. Thanks to a new show on TLC by the same title and a flurry of related press, everybody suddenly wants to be as frugal as the rest of us who have been clipping coupons for years. Although I haven’t been as dedicated recently to saving my mailers and collecting the Sunday paper, I have a soft spot for sales and saving money. The trick to this trade, though, is not saving money for the sake of it by spending needlessly, but rather, just like social media, developing a strategy that works for you and provides results that are tangible and useful.
When I was a (broke) waitress, I had two options: eat ramen or try to find a way to buy real groceries on the cheap. Thanks to a good pair of scissors and a great deal from the local paper, I spent every Sunday cutting out coupons from the paper for things I needed or might need in the near future, organizing them into carefully, categorically labled Ziploc bags. I also saved all the mailers for the week and cut coupons from them on Sunday mornings, too. Then, I carried these bags with me everywhere, and should I ever be in need of Benadryl or a box of granola bars, I’d likely have a coupon for $.50 off or two for one with me. It was even better if there was already a sale for the items. I’d also look for the deals where you could mix and match to get 10 items for $X — which could save $30 or $40 per trip. The trick was only purchasing items I needed — so I didn’t always use these deals when they included things like fishsticks or baby formula. (I don’t like fishsticks and was not so desperately broke to drink baby formula for the sake of a good deal.)
I also rarely shopped at the same store week to week — it depended where the sales were. Some coupons are specific to certain stores. Some stores had better sales than a coupon offered. I also didn’t “save up” coupons to use them for the purpose of bragging about getting $1000 worth of groceries for $100. Likely, getting this deal would have been an illegal use of coupons anyway (the cashiers rarely know the rules, but if they do you’re in trouble). I also just didn’t need that much food or “stuff” at one time. Getting a good deal on Zyrtec when my allergies flared up because I happened to have a coupon was much more beneficial, and over time saved just as much money. That said, if you know what you need, make sure you get it while the deal is hot.
If you’re ready to give it a go at extreme couponing, make sure you check not only your mailbox and the Sunday paper, but also use social media to get all the good deals. On Facebook, The Extreme Coupon Girl posts free sample and mailer alerts, which can help you decide when and where to spend your money each week as well as help you stock up on freebies. The Krazy Coupon Lady is also a great resource for not only coupons, but tips to help you make the most of your time and efforts. Fabulessly Frugal is another great blog to find — and print — all the best coupons and deals. Make sure you use these Facebook pages to connect with others in the extreme couponing community for extra advice, insider knowledge, and to potentially talk trades! You can also Google “Coupon Clipping Service” to find and buy coupons, but there are some ethical dilemmas around this, as well as a question of whether or not this would save you any money in the end. And finally, don’t forget about Twitter. Following others who practice extreme couponing can tip you off on a great deals. Check out this list of coupon experts on Twitter curated by @BlackJackLee to follow all of them at once.
Have you tried extreme couponing? What are your tips and tricks?